Dentist Volunteer - Kelly Chau

I first became interested in Equal Health when I came across an article written by Dr Simon Shanahan titled 'East Timor and Australian Dental Volunteers', which was about a project organised by Equal Health. I thought it sounded like a great project to get involved in.

I have always wanted to this type of volunteer work but, until now, I have never had the time. It may sound cliché but I wanted to volunteer to contribute and hopefully make a bit of a difference.

Initially, simplicity and peacefulness were the thoughts I had about East Timor. The clinics were well set up and located, and the working environment and accommodation were a lot more comfortable than I had expected.

We were staying and working in the mountain villages in Malabe and Lauana, which was an unforgettable memory. It was incredibly peaceful and the people were so friendly and lovely. Conducting 'school screening', or check-ups in the classroom, was a memorable experience. The children and teachers were very enthusiastic and delightful.

The facilities in East Timor were limited to simple materials and instruments, so the treatment was limited to pain relief, simple fillings and extractions, which on one hand can be frustrating at times but on the other hand much easier and less complicated than working in Australia.

Being in East Timor was a very nice change to private practice in Australia. The patients were very grateful and happy to receive the simple treatments provided. It helped me see the bigger picture, the whole person and their way of life, not just their 'teeth and gums.'

I would advise any new volunteer to keep an open mind, it's a different working environment and there will be times of hard work and frustration, but overall it's a rewarding experience.

Kelly Chau - Dentist, Private Practice, Flemington, Victoria

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